The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially signed former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, the team announced on Sunday.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year deal with a $2 million base salary and max value of $3.5 million.
The former number four overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft comes to Tampa Bay after spending three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19). In 2019, Fournette racked up 1,674 all-purpose yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL among all players and fifth among running backs. He also ranked sixth in rushing, with a career-best 1,152 yards, marking the second time he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in the past three seasons. Fournette’s 76 receptions and 522 receiving yards a year ago each ranked fifth among running backs.
There have been some reports about teammates not wanting to play with Fournette in Jacksonville, and according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, before the team released Fournette, the Jaguars were looking to deal him, but with the Buccaneers, Fournette will be playing with Tom Brady, who brings instant respect. In 2017, Jacksonville made it to the AFC title game before losing to Brady and the Patriots, and Fournette was a big part of Jacksonville’s success that season.
Tampa Bay adds the 25-year-old Fournette to a backfield that includes Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy. They also add Fournette to an offense that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. It should be interesting to see how the Buccaneers will use Fournette. Still, no matter how they use him, the Buccaneers are getting a talented football player, who will try to put himself in a position to get a big contract when he becomes a free agent at season’s end.
Tampa Bay will give Fournette a chance to win again, and hopefully, for him, change the narrative.
Joe Judge doesn’t look at Monday as a defining moment in his career. Rather, he sees it is as a natural transition.
For the first time as head coach, he will step on the grass with a 53-man roster and have one thing on his mind: beat the upcoming opponent. That, of course, is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who come into MetLife Stadium on Monday night, Sept. 14.
Starting tomorrow, the playbook will no longer be basic. The field will no longer be strategically set up to maximize the number of practice reps for each player from the top of the depth chart to the bottom, like it was at training camp. The purpose is singular now.
“We have to change the way we think and the way we prepare from preseason now into the regular season where we have a defined opponent to work against,” said Judge, whose team last took the field on Thursday for an intrasquad scrimmage. “The playbook is not a general overview of install; it’s specific towards an opponent and how we are going to play next Monday.”
Before flipping the switch, the Giants had to finalize their personnel.
Ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline, NFL clubs reduced their rosters to the regular-season limit of 53 players. There have been a lot of firsts for Judge this year, but this was one he did not look forward to checking off his list.
“I’d like to just go ahead and thank all of the players that aren’t going to be with the program at this point,” Judge said. “Everybody we’ve had in at training camp did a tremendous job, showed a lot or urgency and effort. We really appreciate and respect every player that came through here. To answer your question, yes, we’re going to keep every player on a short list to bring them back. We have a lot of respect for the guys who went through our program. Obviously, they know our system. In any year, let alone a year like this year, we’re going to have to make sure that we have guys in the fold that we know, we trust, and that know our system and would be able to carry on in a short time period going forward.”
Judge added, “This is not a fun part of the business. This is a very tough time of the year for every player and every coach. There are guys in the locker room who are seeing teammates walk out the door. There are coaches who invested a whole lot personally in players to develop them. The reality in this league is you can’t keep everybody, and that’s just the nature of the business. It’s not an easy few days. They’re not easy conversations. You want to make sure you give every player the direct truth on why the move was made, what we think they can work on going forward to get themselves the best chance, and really open it up for any questions the players may have so that you can always give them all the information necessary for them to improve in their craft.”
The roster work didn’t stop Saturday as the Giants claimed three players off waivers on Sunday. The newcomers are defensive back Adrian Colbert and tackle Jackson Barton, both from the Kansas City Chiefs, and wide receiver Damion Ratley, from the Cleveland Browns.
To make room on the roster, the Giants released wide receiver Corey Coleman and offensive lineman Chad Slade and waived safety Sean Chandler.
“In terms of the guys that we’ve added to the roster, each one answers specific needs at that position group, really as far as establishing more depth and giving us some versatility within the position,” Judge said. “We were able to add some speed at the skill positions, safety and receiver, obviously. The offensive line gives us some position flexibility with the long body of Jackson coming in here. … We’re going to work on getting these guys caught up to speed on our systems, on our calls and our terminology. It’s our priority right now as coaches to get them going as fast as possible.”
*Judge was asked about releasing linebacker Ryan Connelly, who was claimed by his hometown Minnesota Vikings. Connelly was a fifth-round draft choice in 2019 whose promising rookie season was cut short by injury. He played in the first four games, including starts in each of his final three games but suffered a torn ACL vs. Washington on Sept. 29, underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season. He tallied 20 tackles (10 solo), 1.0 sack and two interceptions. When he picked off a Jameis Winston pass at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, he became the first Giants rookie linebacker with an interception since Oct. 26, 2008, when Bryan Kehl picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass in a victory in Pittsburgh.
“We have a lot of respect for Ryan,” said Judge. “He’s a good football player. We had to make the decision ultimately that was best for us. We wish him good luck. If things worked out perfectly for us, we would have loved to have him back on the practice squad. We didn’t expect that to happen, to be honest with you, because he’s a good, accomplished player and there are a lot of teams in the league that were going to be looking to claim him. We wish him good luck in Minnesota and look forward to seeing him play.”
*The Giants recently traded for cornerback Isaac Yiadom from the Denver Broncos, who received a seventh-round draft choice in the deal. Yiadom (pronounced YEAH-dum), 6-1 and 190 pounds, is beginning his third NFL season. A 2018 third-round draft choice (99th pick overall) from Boston College, he has played in 29 games with nine starts. His totals include 55 tackles (42 solo), one interception, seven passes defensed and seven special teams tackles.
Judge has been familiar with him since he came out of college.
“He’s been in here today already kind of talking through some different things, trying to get caught up to speed,” Judge said. “He has an iPad, he has a playbook and availability. We like the way he plays on the line of scrimmage. He has some experience within the league. That goes a little bit of ways, but it’s our job as coaches to get him caught up to our system as fast as possible. There won’t be much carryover necessarily from the other system, but we try to keep as many of the techniques similar for him so he can carry over as fast as possible. But we like the energy and effort he plays with, we like the physicality he shows on the line of scrimmage, and obviously, this is a guy that we remember when he came out of college not too long ago in the draft. We’ve known about this guy in the league for a while.”
*As of Sunday’s press conference, the Giants had not announced their practice squad, which takes on a greater importance this year because of protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Previously, a player was ineligible to join a practice squad if he had more than three accrued seasons in the NFL. Under the 2020 rules, teams can keep up to six players on the squad regardless of their service time.
“All the players that we kept on our 53 and our practice squad are guys that we think give us versatility and have the ability to develop and keep shaping this roster in a positive way,” Judge said. “Really, this is our team, this is the New York Giants’ team. We look at this, everyone in here is in it together, the coaches, players and personnel. We’re pleased with the players we have. Again, it’s the National Football League, we’re always looking to sharpen and develop. There’s natural attrition throughout the year so we have to be aware of everyone else who is involved in the league on transaction moves.”
The Giants today completed the first large-scale roster reduction of the Joe Judge era, removing 28 players to reach the NFL regular-season limit of 53 players.
The list included two quarterbacks (Cooper Rush and Alex Tanney), two players from the Giants’ 2019 draft class (inside linebacker Ryan Connelly and defensive tackle Chris Slayton) and one from the 2020 class (cornerback Chris Williamson).
Also released were wide receivers Johnny Holton, Alex Bachman, Derrick Dillon, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor; running back Tavien Feaster; tight ends Eric Tomlinson and Garrett Dickerson; offensive linemen Jon Halapio, Eric Smith, Tyler Haycraft and Kyle Murphy; defensive linemen Daylon Mack and Niko Lalos; linebacker Josiah Tauaefa; defensive backs Grant Haley, Montre Hartage, Brandon Williams, Dravon Askew-Henry, KeiVarae Russell, Jarren Williams and Prince Smith, Jr.; and long snapper Carson Tinker.
Hartage was waived/injured with a hamstring injury.
The roster shaping will continue tomorrow, when the Giants can also form their 16-player practice squad. Linebacker David Mayo (knee) and rookie safety Xavier McKinney (foot) are candidates for the injured reserve list, from which they would be eligible to return after missing a minimum of three games.
The Giants could also add to their roster by claiming players waived by other teams.
The moves leave the Giants with two quarterbacks in Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy but both Rush and Tanney are practice squad-eligible.
Because of the pandemic, practice squad eligibility has been revamped this year. Previously, a player was ineligible to join a practice squad if he had more than three accrued seasons in the NFL. Under the 2020 rules, teams can keep up to six players on the squad regardless of their service time.
Rush was awarded off waivers to the Giants on May 5, one day after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys. He played three seasons in Dallas under current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and is considered a potential practice squad signee because of his knowledge of the offense.
Tanney was with the Giants the previous two seasons and became a footnote in franchise history in his only appearance, when he relieved Eli Manning in his final game, on Dec. 15 vs. Miami.
Holton joined the team on Wednesday. He played three seasons with the Oakland Raiders and last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 48 regular-season games played and four starts, Holton has more experience than the other receivers who were waived. His career totals include 14 receptions for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
The four younger receivers who were released all flashed at times during training camp. Bachman was signed to the Giants’ practice squad on Nov. 12, 2019 and to a reserve/futures contract on Dec. 30, 2019. Dillon (LSU), Austin Mack and Victor (both from Ohio State) are all rookie free agents.
Feaster, another undrafted rookie, joined the team on Aug. 27. He was originally signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on April 27 and released on Aug. 8.
Tomlinson began his second Giants stint when he was signed as a free agent on March 30. Last year, he played in eight games with three starts for three teams – three games with no starts for the Giants, two games with starts for New England – where Judge was the special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach – and three games with one start for Oakland. He had one reception for one yard for the Patriots at the Jets on Oct. 21.
Dickerson, who first joined the Giants as a rookie free agent in 2018, from Northwestern, played in eight regular-season games – four each in 2018 and 2019 – but did not have a reception.
Halapio rejoined the team on Wednesday. He started all 15 games in which he played for the Giants last season but tore his Achilles tendon in the season finale vs. Philadelphia.
Smith was awarded off waivers to the Giants on Sept. 1, 2019, one day after he was released by the Jets. He played his first two NFL regular-season games last year, debuting when he replaced left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) in the second quarter vs. the Jets on Nov. 10 and also seeing action vs. Miami on Dec. 15.
Haycraft (Louisville) and Murphy (Rhode Island) are rookie free agents. The former was a tackle in college who spent much of camp learning how to play center.
Daylon Mack was signed by the Giants on Aug. 17. He played one game last season for the Baltimore Ravens, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Slayton was one of the Giants’ two seventh-round draft choices in 2019. He was on the team’s practice squad for the first 15 games and was inactive for the Dec. 29 season finale vs. Philadelphia.
Niko Lalos is a rookie free agent from Dartmouth.
Connelly was a fifth-round draft choice in 2019 whose promising rookie season was cut short by injury. He played in the first four games, including starts in each of his three games but suffered a torn ACL vs. Washington on Sept. 29, underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season. He tallied 20 tackles (10 solo), 1.0 sack and two interceptions. When he picked off a Jameis Winston pass at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, he became the first Giants rookie linebacker with an interception since Oct. 26, 2008, when Bryan Kehl picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass in a victory in Pittsburgh.
Tauaefa played in 12 games last season after joining the roster on Oct. 1 as a rookie free agent. He totaled three solo tackles, including two for a loss, all in his NFL debut vs. Minnesota on Oct. 6. Tauaefa added three tackles and one forced fumble on special teams.
Haley first joined the Giants as a rookie free agent in 2018 and in two seasons played in 25 games with 12 starts. His totals included 76 tackles (65 solo), 1.0 sack, and two passes defensed.
Hartage was awarded off waivers to the Giants on April 28, after spending his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins. He played in four games and tallied seven tackles (five solo), one pass defensed and one special teams tackle.
Askew-Henry was signed by the Giants on March 24 after playing four games for the New York Guardians of the XFL during the spring. The West Virginia University product was in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp last year.
Brandon Williams and Russell joined the Giants on Aug. 29 after each spent the 2019 season out of football. Both were former third-round draft choices. From 2016-18, Williams played for the Arizona Cardinals and Russell for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Smith, a rookie free agent from New Hampshire, signed with the Giants on Aug. 15, one week after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jarren Williams is a rookie free agent from Albany who joined the Giants on Aug. 2. He was previously with the Cardinals.
Tinker was the third player added to the team on Wednesday. He last played six games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 but missed the entire season in both 2017 and 2019.
QB (2): Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RB (4): Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman Jr., Eli Penny
WR: (5): Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate III, Darius Slayton, Corey Coleman, C.J. Board,
TE (3): Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levin Toilolo
OL (9): Will Hernandez, Kevin Zeitler, Spencer Pulley, Andrew Thomas, Cameron Fleming, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, Chad Slade, Matt Peart
DL (6): Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh, Austin Johnson
OLB (6): Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, Kyler Fackrell, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin
ILB (5): Blake Martinez, David Mayo, Devante Downs, TJ Brunson, Tae Crowder
DB (10): James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, Darnay Holmes, Xavier McKinney, Isaac Yiodom, Sean Chandler, Nate Ebner
Special Teams (3)
K: Graham Gano
P: Riley Dixon
S: Casey Kreiter
With the NFL season almost upon us, all 32 teams are optimistic about the possibilities, including the New York Giants. Last season, the Giants struggled and finished 4-12, which was expected. As they enter the 2020 season, New York has a new coach in Joe Judge, and they could have their franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones.
In 2019, Jones, who was the sixth overall pick in that year’s draft, came into the season as Eli Manning’s backup. As he enters the 2020 season, Jones, who threw for 3027 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, is the starting quarterback for New York, and according to Giants WR Darius Slayton, Jones is a different guy.
“I think the biggest area of growth for him is just taking a big step from year one to year two as far as just command, and that comes with obviously, coming into a new system this year, learning and getting it down,” Slayton said on Thursday. “But, I think one thing that he grew as the season went on last year was his command, and I think he’s continued to build on that this year as far as his command of the huddle. At the line of scrimmage, being sure of himself, being assertive. I think he’s done a great job of also developing his leadership skills as well.”
Giants president and CEO, John Mara, is confident that Jones can be the guy for the team moving forward.
“I feel good about him right now, the amount of work he’s put in, the way he’s looked at camp,” Mara said. “I’d like to see him take the next step this year. I’m confident that he will do that. The thing that is gratifying to me is that I know our coaching staff is very high on him right now. Guys that have been around successful quarterbacks in the past, and they think that he has what it takes to get us to the next level. Every indication so far is that he does have what it takes. I feel good about where Daniel is right now. Obviously, we want to see him move to the next level. But I think he did a good job last year. Obviously, he had the issue with the (NFL-high 23) turnovers. But he showed a lot of grit and a lot of promise and made a lot of big plays. I think with the right supporting cast around him, I think the sky is the limit for him.”
It will be difficult for teams to be a cohesive unit from the start without a preseason. Still, at this point, Jones is confident in the Giants’ offense as they get ready for the season-opener against Pittsburgh.
“We’ve done a good job as a team simulating some of those preseason games and trying to get reps with a game feel to it, practicing a lot of situations and a lot of things that would come up during games,” Jones said. “I feel like as a team, as an offense, we are in a good spot. We’ve had a good camp and made progress every day towards where we need to be. Next week, we’ll be into game prep and into Week One. I feel like we’ve had a good camp, and we’ve been able to simulate a lot of the game like situations that you would have gotten in the preseason.”
Giants RB Saquon Barkley added this about not having a preseason: “My first really live-action has been Week One to be completely honest. But as a team, I think even though we haven’t faced any other teams, I think from the coaching staff, they did a really good job this camp of simulating what it’s actually going to be like. I see what you guys say about practice, how it’s hard, and this and that. But I think it’s done a really good job for us because we needed that. Like you said, the preseason has gone away. We also did a really good job of getting guys opportunities and chances to show what we’re able to do and what we’re able to bring to the table, and also prepare us and get us ready for the first game of the year.”
Teams that have good quarterbacks always have a chance in the NFL, and for the Giants, who have won only nine games in the last two seasons, Jones’ improvement and command of the offense could make things better for this team in 2020.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will look very different in 2020. Gone are Leonard Fournette, Nick Foles, Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, and Ronnie Harrison, all who were starters on opening day for Jacksonville last season. Coming into this season, Jacksonville will be a young team. With youth, sometimes comes struggles, which could be the reality for the Jaguars.
“Yeah, I think it’s a double edge sword,” Minshew said about the team’s youth on Thursday. “I think experience really does help you learn. I know from my last year, getting those reps is better than any classroom learning or practice learning that you can do. But I’m also very excited; I think with that youth comes a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and not much ego. I think everybody is coming together in a great way. And more than anything, I’m just excited to get everybody out there for the first time and really see what we’ve got.”
As a second-year quarterback, Minshew is one the young players on the team, and according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, Minshew has improved in many areas, including leadership.
“Just obviously from a leadership standpoint obviously, you see him trying to help his teammates more whereas last year, at this time, he was trying to make the team and not knowing where he stood with the roster,” Marrone said about Minshew. “He’s worked considerably hard over the summer for accuracy and all those other things that every quarterback works on. He worked extremely hard and has taken a ton of reps trying to get all that experience.
“The toughest part about that position is obviously you need a skillset to play that position but the toughest part for, at least in my opinion, is putting them in all the different situations that’s going to occur during the course of a game. You’re constantly trying to manage the emotion of the player wanting to [say], ‘Hey, listen, I’m going to put this thing in the end zone. I’m going to through it in here because we have to score a touchdown.’ [But, you have to say,] ‘Hey listen, if it’s not there and you don’t need a touchdown, check it down, and maybe we can run it in.’ I’ve seen him become much better at the decision-making process of [when] to extend the play, when to throw it away when to take the calculated risk. So the experience of putting him in those positions is something I’ve seen him improve upon greatly.”
After a few trades, which netted draft picks for the Jaguars, many believe that winning is not a priority for Jacksonville this season, but Minshew disagrees.
“I think people see it from afar and see, ‘Oh they’re losing their biggest names,'” Minshew said. “But, that’s not how we feel. And I mean realistically, I know if we’re tanking, Coach [Doug] Marrone, Dave Caldwell and [I] are probably going to be out of jobs. So, I know us three, and a lot of those other guys in the locker room are not going to let that crap happen. So, I feel very confidently in everybody’s desire to win, and that’s absolutely not anything that we envision happening.”
The odds are stacked against Jacksonville, and with all the changes, it should be interesting to see what the Jaguars will be in 2020.
During his time in Jacksonville, the one thing we learned about RB Leonard Fournette is he liked to have fun, and he told the Jacksonville media this back in August:
“Most of you guys know I’m always joking and playing, that’s just me,” Fournette said. “I think it kind of got out of hand, so I just wanted to get that out there. I’m not a jerk, but when it comes to football and winning, I’m all in for that.”
So, when Fournette told the team that he had been released on Monday, according to Jaguars RB Chris Thompson, no one believed him.
“Yeah, we were shocked about it,” Thompson said about Fournette getting released via a video call on Tuesday. “He came in the room a couple of minutes before our team meeting and let us know that he had gotten released. We didn’t believe it. We thought he was joking because, you know, he laughs and jokes with us all the time. It wasn’t really until [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone said it in the team meeting that we really believed it. It was a shocker for everybody. The mood was just different that day, or different yesterday at practice, but you know, it’s the NFL, and we just have to rock with the decision that’s being made.”
No Fournette means opportunities for others, including the seventh-year veteran Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Nathan Cottrell, and James Robinson. On Tuesday, Thompson, who spent time in OC Jay Gruden’s offense while in Washington, assessed Jacksonville’s running back room.
“In my opinion, I think they can do a little bit of everything,” he said. “They’re good pass catchers. They can run routes pretty good, and their vision is amazing, especially James [Robinson]. I think he’s one of those guys to me, in my opinion, [that] probably has the best vision out of all of us and it’s been great to see a young guy like that be able to come in and be able to make the plays and hit the holes that he’s been able to hit. I’m excited. I’m excited for all [of] the guys. Nate [Nathan Cottrell], he’s the fastest running back that we have right now, so I’m excited for him and his future. Ryquell [Armstead] and Zig [Devine Ozigbo], they’re both guys that were here last year and now with Leonard [Fournette] not being here, they’re going to be able to get a lot more opportunities. From what I saw, from what Rock [Ryquell Armstead] did last year and Zig, especially in that last game against the Colts, I think they have a lot of potential [that] we’re going to see here moving forward.”
Running backs coach Terry Robiskie added this about the team’s running backs: “It looks young, it looks young. It looks energetic, it looks like a bunch of fresh guys, just a bunch of big-eyed guys that [are] looking at the goal, [they] just want an opportunity, they want an opportunity. I think they feel the opportunity is there. A group of guys that [are] ready to go meet the challenge, go prove themselves. Like I said, everybody in life wants an opportunity. I’ve got a group of guys that [have] got a shot, they’ve got an opportunity here and it’s right before them.”
The release of Fournette was surprising, but it was not very shocking. Jacksonville had been looking to trade Fournette for some time, but the timing surprised many, and now it’s up to others to make things happen without Fournette.
Joe Judge deviated from his norm today and spoke at length about a player who is not yet eligible to participate in a Giants practice.
But Logan Ryan is no ordinary player.
Judge and the Giants’ newest acquisition were together in New England for the first four years of Ryan’s career after the Patriots selected him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The eight-year pro is a talented, versatile and experienced defensive back who will upgrade the Giants’ secondary the instant he steps on the field.
Though Ryan agreed to contract terms yesterday, that moment will have to wait until Ryan fulfills his testing obligations mandated by the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol.
“With the protocols in place, we won’t see him before Thursday (when the Giants will hold their second scrimmage in MetLife Stadium),” Judge said.
Judge knows exactly what he’ll be getting when Ryan does begin practicing.
“I think Logan’s a guy who comes to work every day with the right demeanor,” Judge said today. “He’s a smart guy that plays tough on the field. He’s a player that I noticed through my time with him and then also my time away competing against him that he’s a guy that really improves from year to year. He really works on his craft. He’s not just a guy who’s out there kind of ‘this is what I am.’ He’s always looking to work on maybe something that hurt him the year before and he’s looking to always go ahead and improve on his strengths.
“Look, he brings a lot of versatility. He’s a smart, tough football player. We’re glad to have him. We have a lot of guys in the defensive backfield make a lot of improvements every day. It’ll be good to get him in the mix with all of those guys.”
When asked if Ryan will be a corner or safety, Judge again stressed the player’s flexibility.
“He’s going to play a variety of roles for us, so if I gave you one answer right there, I’d be lying,” Judge said. “Logan, one of his strengths really is versatility. We’re going to play him in different packages all over the field. Really, having a guy like that allows you to play other guys in fewer positions because he can handle a lot of the multiples while these guys are learning the system.”
Ryan has an impressive resume. In 109 regular season games, including 85 starts, he has 522 tackles (374 solo), 17 interceptions and 11.0 sacks. Ryan also has 89 tackles (70 solo), 1.0 sack and two interceptions in 15 postseason games, including two Super Bowl victories.
In 2019, Ryan started all 19 games for the Tennessee Titans and led the team in tackles in both the regular season (when he had career-high totals of 113 stops, 4.5 sacks, plus four interceptions) and the postseason 25 tackles (18 solo) and added one pick.
At 29, Ryan is the Giants’ second-oldest defensive back after 31-year-old Nate Ebner, who was also on those Patriots teams and plays almost exclusively on special teams.
“To me, it’s valuable to bring in good football players, no matter what age they are,” Judge said. “I’ve referenced before, it doesn’t matter what year you are in the league. If you’re a good player, you’ll help us. It’s our job as coaches to make sure everyone knows how to play, what their responsibilities are, and make sure they know what the expectations and the culture are. We’re excited to have Logan on his way.”
The two men have previously shared success. The Patriots won the AFC East title in each of their four seasons they were together in New England and defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX and Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. Ryan played every game during that time and intercepted 13 passes, including a career-high five as a rookie.
“I have a ton of memories with Logan,” Judge said. “It was only my second year in the league when we drafted Logan. We kind of learned a lot of stuff together, to be honest with you. As you get working, I was working with him as a gunner, a vice player and a core special teamer for us, and obviously, he was growing within his defensive role.
“I think the thing that stands out to me the most about Logan is the improvement I watched him make from year one to year two. The thing you noticed was he was a guy when the season was over, he hung behind. He wasn’t in a hurry to get out of there. Him and Duron Harmon were actually two Rutgers teammates. They hung around the building the entire offseason and you could physically see the transformation in their bodies. You could see the work and evidence in how they changed how they looked, and it transferred over on to the field in how they played.”
And beginning next week, the Giants will be the beneficiaries of that dedication.
In a move that shocked many around the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars waived RB Leonard Fournette on Monday. The fourth-year player, who was the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and whose fifth-year option was declined by the team in May, was rumored to be on the trading block this spring, but ultimately, according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, there were no takers.
“My question was, ‘Can we get any value?’ and [the answer] it was we couldn’t get any,” Marrone said via a video call on Monday. “Fifth, sixth [round picks], we couldn’t get anything.”
As a rookie, in 2017, Fournette rushed for 1040 yards and nine rushing touchdowns and helped Jacksonville make it to the AFC title game. In 2018, Fournette struggled with injuries and was fined(later overturned) by then team president Tom Coughlin after Fournette, who was inactive due to an ankle injury in the season finale, sat on the bench. However, in 2019, Fournette had career-highs in rushing yards(1152), receptions(76), and receiving yards(522). Now, without Fournette, the Jaguars will turn to Ryquell Armstead and Chris Thompson, and Marrone feels those guys can help Jacksonville more than Fournette could in 2020.
“I just feel like [with] the skill set of the guys that we have being used the right way, [they] will be able to give us more production and give us a better opportunity to win games,” Marrone said. “That’s exactly what I feel and exactly what I’ve seen on tape.”
Some might believe Jacksonville could be tanking after waiving the 25-year-old Fournette. However, Marrone said that is not the case.
“I can’t speak for anyone like I said I’m not going to speak for anyone else,” he said. “But if that’s the case(tanking), then the realization is that if that happens, I’m not going to be here. Right? At the end of the day, if I don’t win enough games or do enough with this team, I don’t foresee me still being employed. So I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we have the best team to win football games. I mean that’s as simple as I can be on it.”
Marrone is right. Jacksonville does need to win for him to keep his job. I don’t think Jacksonville is tanking, but it’s clear they wanted to get Fournette out of their locker room. He was the best running back on Jacksonville’s roster, so this is a move, according to Jacksonville, that is addition by subtraction.
Nick Gates’ Wikipedia page offers scant information in its four short paragraphs, but it does include this nugget: “He can play at either tackle or guard positions on the offensive line.”
That line must be updated, because when the Giants open their 2020 season two weeks from tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gates has a chance to be the starting center.
Joe Judge has revealed very little about job competitions in training camp, but he did admit after the team’s first scrimmage 10 days ago that the contest at center between Spencer Pulley and Gates is “scratch even.”
In one respect, that is a tribute to Gates. Because while Pulley has made all 26 of his career starts at center, Gates never played the position until camp began. In three seasons at the University of Nebraska, he started 10 games at right tackle and the last 25 on the left side. Gates joined the Giants as a rookie free agent in 2018 but missed his entire rookie season after suffering a training camp ankle injury. Last year, he played in all 16 games, starting two at right tackle and one at right guard.
What’s been the biggest challenge moving to the middle?
“Honestly, just mentally, getting the playbook, getting in and just knowing what to do with every single front the defense gives us,” Gates said today. “Our defense gives us a lot of different things to look at, mix it up a lot. That’s probably the biggest thing, but it’s good for me to get out there against our defense and see all that. Because we are most likely not going to get this much different stuff in a game when we go to a real live game.
“I think mentally I’m thinking about so much, I don’t really think about the physical part, like the technique part and snapping the ball. It’s kind of nice to go out there and think and try to do the play. By the time I give the calls, I’m ready to go and I don’t have to think about it too much.”
Pulley did not participate in the team’s Friday night scrimmage, so Gates anchored the starting line.
“I thought Nick Gates did a good job in the middle, commanding the calls and getting everyone on the same page,” Judge said. “I thought he played with a lot of toughness the other night.”
Gates is listed at 6-5 and 312 pounds. The first measurement is considered a bit tall for a center (though Pulley is 6-4 and 306 pounds), but Gates’ height is perfectly fine for line coach Marc Colombo.
“We like big centers,” Colombo said. “I worked with (five-time Pro Bowler) Travis Frederick (who is 6-4, 320) in Dallas and he’s a big center. Big, athletic, strong. We’re looking for centers that can anchor the middle. One of the biggest things is getting depth right off the bat at center, just so he can kind of be the ultimate helper in there. It’s working his set. It’s working the depth of his sets, it’s working the calls, the line stunts, that type of stuff. He just has to see it all.
“(Gates) is new to the position, so he’s seeing stuff for the first time. As we get him more reps and give him more looks, he’s going to become more confident. That’s on us coaches to keep giving him and keep pushing him and challenging him every day as he keeps getting better. That’s something that we try to do every single day.”
Communication, both verbal and silent, is vital on any successful offensive line. The Giants’ only returning starters up front are guards Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez, so developing those interactions is an ongoing process.
“It takes time,” Gates said. “We didn’t get OTA’s together, which doesn’t hurt us, but that time helps get the kinks and little things out of the way then. So, when you come to training camp you know the offense, you know the technique and you know how each person plays. It helps during that. I think we’re doing a good job playing off each other. Me, Will and Zeitler have been together with each other for the last two years. We kind of understand each other on the inside.”
And that is helping Gates settle in quite nicely in the center of the O-line.
“Nick’s done a really good job with that,” Colombo said. “We need to keep pushing him, keep showing him everything so it’s not the first time he sees it when we’re out there playing a real game.”
“It’s the first time I have been in charge of the line, it’s nice,” Gates said. “It’s a lot more responsibility mentally. It’s something I am getting used to.”
The Philadelphia Eagles suffered a big blow this week when second-year LT Andre Dillard tore his biceps, putting him out for the year. Now, Philadelphia has to find a replacement for Dillard.
Fortunately for the Eagles, there are options. Longtime LT Jason Peters, who re-signed with the team and was expected to play guard after Brandon Brooks ruptured his Achilles, is a guy who would be the logical replacement. At this point, Peters is still working at the guard spot. However, Pederson has other options, which he discussed on Saturday.
“In regard to left tackle, Jason Peters is obviously in the conversation,” Pederson said. “We do have some young players, [T] Jordan Mailata, [G/T] Matt Pryor, [T] Jack Driscoll, who’s a rookie obviously but playing some tackle for us. But we’ve got a couple of guys now including Jason Peters that we want to look at over at the left side. J.P. has done an outstanding job, coming in, playing the right guard spot. We’re going to continue to look at him there, as well, but we have some options. We’ve got a couple of days here before, one, roster cuts, but obviously getting into the regular season.”
On Saturday, Pryor worked at the left tackle spot. Mailata, who played rugby in Australia, and has a minimal football background, is a possibility for Philadelphia, but the lack of experience might work against him. However, Pederson believes Mailata could learn by playing.
“I mean, listen, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience, either, becoming a head coach for the first time,” Pederson said. “You get it by doing it. We’ve had situations here; I go back to Big V [former Eagle and current Lions T Halapoulivaati Vaitai]. Big V, his first game was at Washington as a young player, and sometimes you learn, and you gain valuable experience that way…
“It’s our job to coach them up and get them prepared to help them, not only in practice but in-game situations, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Moving the 38-year-old Peters to tackle is probably the best solution for the Eagles, especially with the team being two weeks away from the season-opener. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, Peters, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Eagles, wants to be paid like a starting left tackle if he’s to assume the role for the 2020 season, which could make things interesting.
We’ll see what direction Philadelphia will go in at the tackle spot, but don’t be surprised if Peters is there at some point in 2020.